If there is anything valuable coming out of the shit show that is the political climate in the country right now it is the emergence of women taking back our power. I feel as if it has taken a situation where we have hit bottom in terms of respect, ownership of our bodies including threats of the repeal of Rowe Vs. Wade, and getting short shrift in pay. Women, even women who are shy and reluctant to make waves, are stepping forward to say, “Nope. We are done with that!”
It was eye-opening for me when I heard a literary critic speak about Toni Morrison’s Beloved. She described how the slave owner had written the story of Sethe’s life on her back with his whip. He had total control over her and could inflict punishment when he believed she had stepped out of line.
That same kind of control and oppression has been the back story of women even until today. Women are held to a different standard than men, as it became clear in the recent circus which was the Kavanaugh hearing. Men like Lindsay Graham and Kavanaugh himself became red in the face, screaming, placing blame, and name calling: behavior, if exhibited by a woman, would have lead to accusations of insanity. How dare a woman point out the bad behavior of a powerful man and possibly hurt his career! They were irate.
Meanwhile Kavanaugh gets his lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and Blasey-Ford goes back to her teaching position with death threats hanging over her head. I am not saying that her claims so late in the game were enough to keep Kavanaugh from the court, but I will say that his behavior during the hearing was ugly and undignified.
Like other women before her, Blasey-Ford will go back to her work and try to pick up the pieces. Life will go on.
I have recently read two books chronicling the valuable, dangerous work of women in the Resistance in France in WWII. One was a nonfiction book called Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba and the other a fiction book called The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I read the Sebba book first and was astounded by the terrifying risks these women took. Some of them were wealthy aristocrats, but all of them risked their own safety and lives as well as the lives of their loved ones. Punishment if captured was torture, rape, death or slow death in Nazi concentration camps. The fictional account would seem unbelievable if I had not already read the nonfiction accounts. The Nightingale continually leads downed airmen over the Pyrenees on foot to get to Spain. Actual French women did equally dangerous things to defeat the Nazis and like The Nightingale, pay a high price for their resistance.
After the war, a character is questioned about her work in the resistance and why he had heard nothing about it.
She answers, “ Men tell stories,” I say. It is the truest, simplest answer to his question. “Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started over.”
Certainly the state of our country now is not equivalent to Nazi-occupied Europe, but those billionaires in power are as entrenched as Lyme Disease in someone’s gut. Women are stepping out of their comfort zones to voice their opposition to abuse of power. My friend Erica stands in the square with trembling hands holding up her signs demanding reunification of families. She writes letters to the editor questioning incumbents who won’t even take the time to state their positions in League of Women Voters publications.
We can be proud of both men and women who bravely overcome fears to say, “Enough.” Let us join them.